Make no mistake. The raging controversy over the Obama Administration's refusal to exempt religious organizations from onerous health care mandates is a big deal. A very big deal.
But why? What's really at issue here?
Despite what the media and the Obama Administration are telling you, it's not just a battle between the so-called "archaic beliefs" of the Catholic Church on the one hand and advocates of women's health on the other. It's not just about access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization, bad as that is.
And it's even more than a battle over religious freedom. I have to say, the Obama Administration's move boggles the mind. What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." does the administration not understand?
There is no way this outrage would survive if it has to get to the courts. And I'm grateful to see lawmakers in Congress on both sides working together to reverse the decision. Let's hope they can succeed.
I'm even more gratified to see people of faith rallying against this violation of religious liberty. I've heard from ministers, rabbis, even Muslims, outraged at this threat.
That's a point that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University, and I make together in today's Wall Street Journal. As we say in our opinion piece, a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew can all agree that "under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law."
So why in the world would the Administration brushoff at the Bill of Rights and antagonize people of faith - maybe 80 percent of the U.S. population?
Because what's really at stake here is whether or not there is any limit to government power.
That's the point made by Daniel Henninger in his excellent piece yesterday, also in the Wall Street Journal. "The American Catholic Church," he writes, "is now being handed a lesson in the hierarchy of raw political authority."
But the question for all of us, Henninger writes, "is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost."
Friends, the answer to that question depends on whether we the people, and especially we Christians and people of all faiths will rise up and say, "Enough! You may not intrude on our religious beliefs, you may not prohibit us from living out our faith."
So today, as I have earlier this week, I am asking you to take action. Go to ManhattanDeclration.org, sign our petition to the President to reverse the HHS decision. Thousands of people have already done so. And then sign the Manhattan Declaration itself and get your friends to do the same thing.
I have said before, now is the time to speak out-and to remain vigilant in the face of the government's enormous appetite for power over the lives and liberties of its citizens.
What's really at stake is whether we will continue to be a free country.